Farmers will be paid to restore natural habitats with the aim of bringing the countryside back to life
The initiative will be open to individual landowners and farmers or groups engaging in land management projects covering 500 to 5,000 hectares. Applications will be open shortly, with 15 projects scheduled to receive funding initially. Ministers believe the reforms will play a major role in the government’s drive to halt the decline of UK species by 2030 and restore up to 300,000 hectares of habitat by 2040.
However, prominent figures in the agricultural industry have expressed concern that the changes place too much emphasis on freeing land for rewilding rather than the need to support national food production and self-sufficiency.
There are also fears that the reforms will disproportionately benefit wealthy landowners, rather than the hundreds of tenants who account for 50 percent of the country’s agriculture.
These programs are in addition to the recently announced Sustainable Agriculture Incentive (SFI), which pays farmers for using sustainable land management methods. It is being tested by nearly 1,000 farmers and should be rolled out nationally from 2022.
Hailed as the biggest overhaul of agriculture and land management in half a century, these schemes will replace the basic payment system implemented under the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).
Key price after leaving the EU
Brexiteers and some environmentalists see farm subsidy reforms as a key price for leaving the EU, having long argued that the CAP is biased in favor of the biggest landowners and has failed to protect the environment.
Mr Eustice said: “Our new policies will support the choices individual farmers make, with the freedom to choose which things work for them.
“I have already given more details on our new incentive for sustainable agriculture, with a focus on soil health. This week, I’ll say more about local nature reclamation and creating space for nature in the agricultural landscape, and landscape reclamation – which will pay off landowners who want to deliver environmental results through change. land use.
Last night, a senior agricultural sector official said the SFI scheme appeared to be much less generous than the Basic Payment scheme in terms of funding per hectare.
They also raised concerns that future incentives would massively benefit large landowners rather than sharecroppers, many of whom are not allowed to plant trees or receive any financial reward for growing them.